Les Trois Vallées is huge, the largest ski resort in the world. Skiing amid 600 kilometres of trails (over 595 km) on 200 interconnected lifts amongst 8 ski areas builds a hunger for French cuisine. There are dozens of French chalets and restaurants in the 3 Valleys, but they are not all created equal. Some are charming and authentic, others modern and très chic, or bland ski factory style. Here are our top picks of haute cuisine – top alpine ski restaurants and on mountain chalets in Courchevel, Méribel, St Martin de Belleville and Val Thorens for lunch.
Le Chalets de Pierres is a beautiful mountain lodge in Courchevel 1850 on the popular Verdons trail – along the flats, just below the Verdons gondola. The Chalet is easy to find on the slopes, and the interior offers grand, gorgeous blonde alpine wood fantastically decorated with ski and mountain artifacts. Pierres’ wait staff is clad in jaunty French berets. The wine and food menus are extensive. The roasted chicken is delicious, so is the fondue, and the tartiflette – a Savoyard dish of potatoes, onions, ham and local cheese baked in a creuset. Pierres’ dessert buffet is a feast for the eyes …. and the tastes. In fact, you might just want French Champagne and dessert. Downstairs is a Montcler boutique if you need something furry and fabulous for your afternoon of skiing. The outdoor deck gets lively on sunny afternoons
Soucoupe in Courchevel is a traditional chalet atop the Loze poma lift at Courchevel 1850. The woodwork and décor oozes elegant old world mountain hut. We suggest a table upstairs by the open fire. The specialities of the house are grilled meats cooked by the chef on the open fire. Along with your grilled steak, veal, lamb of chicken comes a side of the local potatoes with cheese. You can also just ski in for a fireside toddy and snack lounging on the furry couches.
Chez Pépé Nicholas at Val Thorens is an authentic hillside farmhouse located on the Chasse trail in Les Menuires – you either ski from Les Menuires or climb up from the Plan De L’Eau lift. It’s hard to find, but so worth it. This truly historic and humble chalet in a scenic valley serves deliciously traditional cuisine, tartiflette, local meat and cheese boards, fresh salads and meat dishes – all very filling and delicious. The views from the terrace are extraordinary, so is the service. Save room for some dessert, and the house made Génépi – a digestif alcohol made from native alpine flowers. Salute!
Les Etoiles De Neiges in Saint Martin de Belleville - the lower ski region of Val Thorens is just off the ski slopes, making it difficult to discover and therefore special. Ski down to the base of St Martin’s poma and its 50 metres across the road to Hotel Edelweiss. Etoiles de Neiges is worth seeking out - a Michelin gem with delicious cuisine and white linen service. The salads are plentiful, fresh and delicious, so is the menu plate du jour. For a sweet ending, ask for the Génépi and riz seul pastries – the Grand Mere’s specialty.
La Cave Des Creux is on the ski slopes of Courchevel 1850 near the base of the Suisse lift off the Altiport trail, a very chic alpine chalet with exceptional cuisine. Owned by two brothers, the extensive menu has everything from local specialities to seafood. The fish and chips - with hand cut delicious French Fries, are a 10! The dessert display is incredible, even if you just watch the pastry chef and never ingest a single beautiful sweet creation.
Bel Air is a delightful lunch spot at the top of the Ariondaz lift in Courchevel 1650 with a grand sunny deck and cosy interior. Besides the outstanding view, and the “beautiful air”, the food is fantastic, and the service is friendly – try the tartiflette or the daily plat du jour.
Fahrenheit 7 is very modern, a chic new 4-star hotel at Val Thorens overlooking the central slopes at Cascades. “7’s” terrace for lunch or après ski here is huge, perfect on a sunny afternoon with amazing slope views. The Chef’s menu is eclectic, including local beef, Asian noodle dishes, and “New York Lobster” as a special when we visited (from our home in Maine). This is a great spot for an après ski aperitif as you watch the skiers descend the vast terrain of Val Thorens.
Le Farcon at the La Tania base area is a very fancy Michelin Star restaurant, accredited since 2006. Its pricey for lunch, but the prix fixe menu is the Chef's inspiration and your culinary treat - don't be in a rush to get back out on the ski slopes. La Tania is located on the east side lower base area of Courchevel.
Sunny’s at Les Menuires is casual but cool. Ride the Sunny chair and ski down to this chalet with a big deck, and great views of the valley - Val Thorens. The traditional menu is not fancy - but good food and service, and fun music outside on sunny days – appropriately named.
For Après Ski at 3 Valleys:
La Folie Douce, reached by the Saulire gondola in Méribel, is a must ski to and see at least once in a lifetime. At 2:00 pm 80's style cabaret kicks off an afternoon party, they say its “soft après ski” meaning it's not too wild. Apparently that translates to - you can bring the kids but we don't recommend that. La Folie Douce has become a sort of après ski franchise - you will find the same party format in neighbouring Val Thorens and Val D'Isere.
Another wild après party is at Rond Point in Méribel. The dancing and drinking is off the hook at Rond Point starting at 5 just above Méribel village where live bands play outside on the deck and the crowd goes bananas - including banana costumes and crowd surfing in ski boots.
Remember, this is the French Savioe region, noted for its farm cuisine – sample local charcuterie dried meats, and cow cheese in fondue or raclette featuring local Beaufort, Gruyere, and Reblochon, best enjoyed with the local French wines of Gamay, Pinot Noir and Moneuse grapes.